Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Nature destroys, God creates

When we observe the world around us, one of the most ubiquitous and inescapable phenomena is the relentless tendency of nature to tear things down. Left to their own devices, physical systems inevitably decay, erode, and disintegrate over time. Mountains gradually crumble into dust, buildings deteriorate and collapse, living organisms age and die. 


This is not just a superficial trend, but a fundamental law of physics known as the second law of thermodynamics. In any closed system, entropy - a measure of disorder and randomness - always increases over time. The arrow of time inexorably points in the direction of decay and equilibrium, as highly organized structures dissolve into simpler, more homogeneous states.



Given this pervasive natural propensity for degradation, it is striking that the universe around us exhibits such astonishing examples of complexity, beauty, and organization. From the exquisite fine-tuning of physical constants that permit a life-permitting cosmos, to the dazzling diversity and engineering marvels of the biological world, to the information-rich nanotechnology undergirding the cell, we find countless instances of things that nature alone seems utterly incapable of producing.


For example, the simplest living cell is a masterpiece of miniaturization and functional integration that far surpasses our most advanced human technology. It contains digital code, information processing and storage, error correction and proofreading software, molecular machines and factories, and a complex web of metabolic circuitry. The requisite information content and irreducible complexity of even the most basic life vastly exceed what undirected physical processes can plausibly generate.


This points to a deep explanatory conundrum for philosophical naturalism and scientific materialism. If nature, left to its own unguided devices, universally and inexorably tends towards erosion and decay, how do we account for the soaring heights of informational and organizational complexity we find throughout the natural world, from the microscopic to the cosmic scale?


The most straightforward and empirically grounded answer is that there must be a creative intelligence - a grand counterforce to entropy - infusing the world with structure, design, and meaning. In our uniform experience, functional complexity and informational richness only ever arise from the activity of rational agents. We don't attribute Mount Rushmore to wind and erosion, or encyclopedias to explosions in printing presses. Wherever we see elaborately integrated systems that defy the grinding destructive trends of unguided nature, we justifiably infer intelligent causation.


The same logic applies to the wonders we find in the natural world that vastly outstrip Mount Rushmore or encyclopedias in their complexity and refinement. The fine-tuned physics and chemistry that render life possible, the information-rich macromolecules that form the basis of biology, and the elaborate molecular machinery upon which all organisms depend - these are the unmistakable fingerprints of a supreme cosmic engineer, a transcendent Mind behind the universe who repeatedly triumphs over the blind, destructive ravages of entropic decay.


This recognition of intelligent agency in nature was the reigning consensus for most of human history, and for good reason. It comports with common sense, ordinary experience, and philosophical reflection about the causal powers and limitations of purely materialistic processes. The atheistic scientific materialism that rose to prominence in recent centuries is very much a novel historical aberration that flies in the face of the rational design intuitions of countless generations. 


When carefully considered, the ubiquity of erosion and decay actually lends strong support to the idea of a creative intelligence behind the cosmos. Without the repeated infusion of organizing power by a designing mind, it is hard to fathom how a universe so ravaged by entropy could exhibit such dazzling heights of informational and engineering complexity. The overwhelming trend of blind nature is to tear down and disintegrate, not build up and create.


Recognizing this points us powerfully to the existence of God - the ultimate creative force responsible for imbuing the world with structure, rationality, and beauty in the face of destructive randomness. While much remains to be discovered about the precise mechanisms of cosmic and biological design, the core insight that it takes a mind to explain the grandeur of creation is deeply compelling. The very erosive power of unguided nature reveals and confirms the necessity of nature's supreme Intelligent Designer.

Why there is no problem of evil for a Christian


The so-called “Problem of Evil” that is used to challenge the existence of God is not an issue for Biblical Christians.

Verses like Genesis 50:20 and Romans 8:28 show that ultimately, the existence of evil and its service to God's good purposes can be understood through the logical framework: "All that exists serves God's good purpose; Evil exists; Therefore, evil serves God's good purpose." This does not imply that evil is intrinsically good or that God directly causes it, but rather that God, in His wisdom, has chosen to allow evil for a time to fulfill His redemptive plan for us and bring glory to Himself through Jesus.


Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Naturalism, Atheism, and the Argument from Intelligibility

Naturalism and atheism are often presented as the default rational positions, but a deeper look reveals profound philosophical challenges to their coherence and explanatory power. Naturalism asserts that nature is all that exists and that all phenomena can be explained through natural processes. Atheism, which frequently relies on naturalistic presuppositions, is the lack of belief in any gods or supernatural forces. However, both worldviews face significant obstacles.



First, naturalism appears to rest on circular reasoning - it assumes the primacy of nature and then interprets all evidence through that lens. This begs the question, effectively sidestepping the need to provide a more fundamental justification for its core claim. While naturalists appeal to the success of science as validation, the scientific method is arguably underdetermined when it comes to ultimate metaphysical questions. Science's explanatory triumphs do not rule out the existence of realities beyond the strictly natural and quantifiable.


Second, naturalism and atheism struggle to account for key features of reality, such as the profound intelligibility and fine-tuning of the cosmos. Our universe exhibits a stunning susceptibility to rational investigation, from its mathematical elegance to its precise calibration of physical constants. As many have compellingly argued, this pervasive intelligibility points to an intelligent source - a divine mind behind the rational order of creation.


Naturalistic explanations for cosmic intelligibility, such as brute contingency, physical necessity, or the anthropic principle, prove inadequate upon philosophical scrutiny. They fail to address the specificity, beauty, and uncanny resonance of the universe's rational structure. In contrast, theism offers a more parsimonious and illuminating account, grounding the intelligible cosmos in the creative rationality of God.


Longmire's Teleological Argument encapsulates this powerful case for a transcendent intelligence:


P1: The universe is scientifically intelligible. 

P2: Scientific intelligibility stems from rational minds.

C: The universe stems from a rational mind (i.e., God).


The theistic worldview also better coheres with the full scope of human experience, from our apprehension of objective moral truths to our intuitive sense of meaning and purpose. Naturalism and atheism, by reducing reality to the strictly physical and mechanical, struggle to find a place for these defining aspects of the human condition.


The persistent failure of naturalism to fully explain the foundational character of the universe it claims as its own should give us pause. The existence of a world so breathtakingly rational, so shot through with beauty and meaning, so congenial to the flourishing of conscious creatures who bear the image of their Creator - all of this should reopen the question of God with fresh eyes.


As we grapple with the profound philosophical problems inherent in any totalizing worldview, an attitude of intellectual humility is vital. Let us reason together in good faith, following the evidence where it leads. The argument from intelligibility, rigorously made, calls us to look beyond the natural to its supernatural source. In the artistry of creation, we may discover the mind of the Artist.

Borrowed Capital: How Naturalism Hijacks Intelligent Design and Stifles Scientific Progress

Introduction

The theory of intelligent design (ID) has emerged as a significant challenge to the dominant paradigm of naturalistic science. ID proponents argue that the apparent design in the natural world, from the intricate machinery of the cell to the fine-tuned laws of the universe, is best explained by the action of an intelligent agent rather than purely unguided processes. However, ID has struggled to gain traction within the scientific establishment, largely due to the way in which naturalism has come to define the very boundaries of science itself. This essay will explore how naturalism borrows key concepts from the design paradigm without proper justification, creating a self-defeating framework that limits scientific inquiry and progress.



The Origin of Information and the Appearance of Design

One of the most striking examples of naturalism borrowing from design is in its explanation for the origin of information. At the heart of life lies a vast amount of complex, specified information in the form of DNA. The nucleotide sequences in DNA contain the precise assembly instructions for building proteins and guiding embryonic development. Naturalism asserts that this information emerged through blind, unintelligent processes of mutation and natural selection, yet simultaneously acknowledges that information only arises from intelligent agents in all other known cases.


Similarly, naturalism borrows the overall appearance of design in nature while denying its logical implications. Everywhere we look, from molecular machines to ecosystems, we see indicators of intentional engineering and artistry. As Richard Dawkins famously wrote, "Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose." Yet in the next breath, Dawkins asserts that this appearance of design is an illusion, a claim that relies on a massive loan against the design intuition we all share.


The Fine-Tuning of the Universe and the Multiverse

Naturalism faces a similar dilemma with cosmic fine-tuning. The fundamental constants and initial conditions of our universe appear delicately balanced to allow for the existence of life. To avoid the implications of cosmic design, many naturalists resort to speculative ideas like the multiverse, imagining a near-infinite number of unseen universes to improve the odds of getting one like ours by chance. However, there is no direct evidence for a multiverse, and it raises its own fine-tuning questions about the origin and nature of the hypothesized universe-generating mechanism.


Methodological Naturalism and the Boundaries of Science

At the heart of the debate is a philosophical question: What counts as scientific evidence? Naturalism, which holds that nature is all there is and that it can be fully explained without reference to the supernatural, has become the default framework for modern science. Under this view, any scientific explanation must ultimately be reducible to natural causes and mechanisms. Intelligent design, by positing a designing intelligence behind the natural world, seems to violate this cardinal rule.


However, ID advocates argue that this naturalistic restriction is not inherent to science itself, but rather a philosophical presupposition that is imposed onto the scientific enterprise. They contend that the empirical evidence for design in nature should be allowed to speak for itself, without being automatically shoehorned into a naturalistic framework.


The Challenge of Testable Hypotheses

The naturalistic framework puts ID in a difficult position when it comes to formulating testable hypotheses within the established scientific framework. Even when ID does make specific, falsifiable predictions, such as Michael Behe's concept of irreducible complexity, naturalists often argue that such predictions are based on ignorance of potential evolutionary pathways. The burden of proof is placed on ID to demonstrate the impossibility of naturalistic mechanisms, rather than on naturalism to demonstrate their sufficiency.


Moreover, the very criteria for what constitutes a "scientific" hypothesis are often defined in naturalistic terms. Hypotheses that invoke supernatural or non-material causation are dismissed as unscientific by default, regardless of their explanatory power or empirical support. This creates a catch-22 for ID: either operate outside the boundaries of mainstream science and forfeit academic credibility, or attempt to conform to methodological rules that are inherently biased against design inferences.


Conclusion

Naturalism, despite its dominant position in modern science, relies on borrowing key concepts from the paradigm of intelligent design without proper justification. From the origin of information to cosmic fine-tuning to the appearance of design, naturalism hijacks these ideas while simultaneously denying their logical implications. This creates a self-defeating framework that limits scientific inquiry and progress.


To move forward, we must reevaluate the philosophical assumptions underlying science and ask whether naturalism deserves the default status it currently enjoys. Can science be broadened to include the possibility of intelligent causation, without losing its empirical rigor and predictive power? Only by subjecting our philosophical presuppositions to critical scrutiny can we hope to make genuine progress in understanding the nature of reality.


Intelligent design deserves a fair hearing on the basis of the empirical evidence it presents, not a preemptive exclusion based on naturalistic philosophy. Science should follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if it challenges long-held assumptions about the nature of reality. By opening the door to design inferences, while still maintaining the rigorous standards of empirical investigation, we can expand the horizons of scientific inquiry and potentially unlock new insights into the deep structure of the universe.


The debate over intelligent design and the nature of science is far from settled, and the stakes are high. As our scientific knowledge continues to grow, and as we encounter ever more examples of apparent design in the natural world, it becomes increasingly important to grapple with these foundational issues. Only by embracing a true spirit of open-minded inquiry, free from the constraints of naturalistic dogma, can we hope to make real progress in understanding the origin and nature of the cosmos we inhabit. The road ahead may be difficult, but the intellectual integrity of science itself hangs in the balance.


Produced in partnership with ClaudeAI

The Quantum Imago Dei: Exploring the Unity of Divine and Human Creativity

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:1, 3, ESV)

Introduction


The doctrine of the imago Dei, the belief that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, is a central tenet of the Christian faith. From the opening pages of Genesis to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, Scripture bears witness to the profound truth that we are bearers of the divine image, called to participate in God's ongoing work of creation and redemption.[1]


In recent years, the discoveries of quantum physics have shed new and provocative light on this ancient doctrine. The strange and wondrous world of the quantum – with its emphasis on indeterminacy, entanglement, and the role of the observer – has opened up fresh possibilities for understanding the nature of reality and our place within it.[2] Far from being a realm of cold, deterministic particles, the quantum world is one of potentiality, relationship, and participation – a world that resonates deeply with the Biblical vision of a dynamic and relational God.


In this treatise, I will argue that the insights of quantum mechanics and the theology of the imago Dei are not merely compatible, but are fundamentally unified in their portrayal of a participatory and co-creative cosmos. Drawing on Scripture, science, and the reflections of theologians and philosophers, I will explore the idea of a "quantum imago Dei" – a vision of human beings as entangled with the divine life, bearing the image of God through our participation in the unfolding of creation.



The Entangled Universe

"For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible... He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:16-17, NIV)


At the heart of quantum physics lies the startling realization that the universe is not a collection of independent, localized particles, but is instead a web of relationships and potentialities.[3] Subatomic entities like electrons and photons seem to exist in multiple states simultaneously, collapsing into definite form only when observed or measured. Even more strikingly, particles can become "entangled" with one another, remaining instantly correlated across vast distances in apparent defiance of the speed of light.[4]


This quantum picture of reality as inherently relational and interconnected finds a profound echo in the Biblical understanding of God and creation. The God of Scripture is not a distant or aloof deity, but One who is intimately and lovingly involved with the world, upholding all things by his Word and presence.[5] Creation itself is not a static or finished product, but an ongoing, dynamic process in which God invites the participation of creatures, and in which the future remains open to novelty and surprise.[6]


Moreover, the phenomenon of quantum entanglement offers a powerful metaphor for the deep unity and inseparability of God and the world. Just as entangled particles remain fundamentally one even when spatially separated, so the love and presence of God permeate and sustain all things, even in the midst of apparent distance or division.[7] As Paul declares, "Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."[8]


The Participatory Imago Dei

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)


In light of this quantum understanding of reality as relational and participatory, the doctrine of the imago Dei takes on new depth and significance. To bear the image of God is not merely to possess certain static qualities or capacities, but to be fundamentally entangled with the divine life and creativity.[9] It is to be called and empowered to participate in God's ongoing work of creation and redemption, to be co-creators and stewards of the world.[10]


This participatory understanding of the imago Dei finds deep resonance with the Biblical narrative. From the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve are commissioned to "work and take care" of creation, to the prophetic visions of a renewed earth where God's will is done "on earth as it is in heaven," Scripture envisions human beings as active partners in the divine project.[11] As bearers of the divine image, we are not passive bystanders, but are invited to use our creativity, reason, and agency to shape the world in alignment with God's loving purposes.


Moreover, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, the perfect image of the invisible God, reveal the fullest expression of this participatory vocation.[12] Through his incarnation, death, and resurrection, Christ opens up a new way of being human, one that is fully attuned to and participating in the divine life.[13] As members of Christ's Body, we are called to embody this new humanity, to "put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."[14]


The Quantum Kingdom

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation... For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:15, 19-20, NIV)


In the convergence of quantum physics and the theology of the imago Dei, we catch a glimpse of a breathtaking vision – the vision of a "quantum kingdom," a creation that is not only the handiwork of God, but is infused with and animated by the divine life itself.[15] In this quantum kingdom, every particle and every creature is entangled with the presence and purpose of God, participating in the grand cosmic dance of love and creativity.


This vision calls us to a new way of seeing and being in the world. It invites us to recognize the sacred depths and potential in all things, from the subatomic to the supergalactic. It challenges us to embrace our role as co-creators and stewards, to use our gifts and abilities in service of the flourishing of the whole creation. And it summons us to hope and work for the day when all things will be reconciled and made new in Christ, the quantum Lord.[16]


Of course, this quantum vision of the imago Dei is not without its challenges and mysteries. The precise relationship between divine action and human freedom, the problem of evil and suffering, the nature of time and eternity – these and other deep questions remain the subject of ongoing theological and scientific exploration.[17] Nonetheless, by bringing the insights of faith and reason into fruitful dialogue, we may continue to grow in our understanding and appreciation of the God who is both Creator and Redeemer, the Alpha and the Omega of the quantum kingdom.[18]


Conclusion

"Behold, I am making all things new." (Revelation 21:5, ESV)


In conclusion, the convergence of quantum physics and the theology of the imago Dei offers a powerful and compelling vision of reality – a vision in which the universe is not a cold, empty void, but a vibrant and sacred cosmos, pulsing with the presence and creativity of God. In this quantum kingdom, we are not mere spectators, but participants and co-creators, bearing the divine image and called to join in the great work of cosmic redemption.


As we continue to explore the frontiers of science and faith, let us do so with humility, wonder, and expectation. Let us be open to the surprises and revelations that await us, knowing that in the end, all truth is God's truth, and all wisdom finds its source in the Word made flesh.[19] And let us bear the image of that Word with joy and faithfulness, entangled forever with the love that moves the sun and the other quantum stars.[20]


Footnotes:

[1] Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1-2; 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7; Colossians 3:10.

[2] John Polkinghorne, Science and the Trinity: The Christian Encounter with Reality (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004).

[3] Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007).

[4] Amir D. Aczel, Entanglement: The Greatest Mystery in Physics (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002).

[5] Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:3; Acts 17:28.

[6] John Polkinghorne, Science and Providence: God's Interaction with the World (Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press, 2005).

[7] Catherine Keller, Cloud of the Impossible: Negative Theology and Planetary Entanglement (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015).

[8] Romans 8:38-39, NIV.

[9] J. Richard Middleton, The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2005).

[10] Philip Hefner, Technology and Human Becoming (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003).

[11] Genesis 2:15; Matthew 6:10; Romans 8:19-23.

[12] Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:4.

[13] N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: HarperOne, 2008).

[14] Ephesians 4:24, NIV.

[15] J├╝rgen Moltmann, God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993).

[16] Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:20; Revelation 21:5.

[17] Ian G. Barbour, Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997).

[18] Revelation 1:8; 22:13; John 1:1-14.

[19] Augustine of Hippo, On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 18.

[20] Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Paradiso, Canto XXXIII.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Lines of evidence that support Biblical Christianity

Here is a summary list of the main lines of evidence that support Biblical Christianity:


1. Historical evidence

   - The reliability of the New Testament accounts of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection

   - Extra-biblical sources corroborating key details about Jesus and early Christianity

   - The willingness of the apostles to suffer and die for their testimony, when they had nothing to gain and everything to lose


2. Observational evidence

   - The fine-tuning and design of the universe

   - The complexity and information content of biological life

   - The existence of consciousness and objective moral values


3. Experiential evidence

   - Personal experiences of answered prayer and the transforming power of the gospel

   - The inner witness of the Holy Spirit confirming the truth of Christianity

   - Changed lives and the practical impact of faith in the lives of believers


4. Revelatory evidence

   - The divine inspiration, consistency, and authority of the Bible

   - Fulfilled prophecies, especially messianic predictions about Jesus

   - The profound wisdom and truth claims of Scripture


5. Logical and philosophical evidence

   - The cosmological argument for a First Cause of the universe

   - The teleological argument for a Designer based on the order and purpose in nature

   - The moral argument for a transcendent moral lawgiver

   - The ontological argument for the necessary existence of a maximally great being


6. Prophetic evidence

   - Specific, detailed prophecies in the Old Testament that were accurately fulfilled

   - Messianic prophecies predicting details about Jesus' life, death, and resurrection


7. The coherence and explanatory power of the Biblical worldview

   - A comprehensive framework for understanding the big questions of life

   - Coherent explanations for the origin and meaning of the universe, morality, and the human condition


8. The universal hunger for God

   - The pervasive belief in a higher power or spiritual reality across cultures and throughout history

   - The human longing for meaning, purpose, and connection with the divine


The cumulative power of these lines combine into the strongest existential and most explanatory complete framework available.


While atheistic naturalists have skeptical rebuttals to these lines, they cannot refute them. Also, their alternative explanations fall flat, particularly as it relates to ultimate causality and the Big Questions of existence.


All they have is their strategy of trying to shift the burden of proof to naturalistic scientific evaluation of ultimately supernatural causality. Don’t fall for it. You can’t scientifically measure love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, justice, honor, beauty, or hope.


Also, don’t fall for attempts to shift focus to the failings of humans away from the glorious person of Jesus Christ. He, and no other, is our model.


The bottom line is the willingness to accept and rationalize a framework of ultimately meaningless existence over a purposeful life  founded on the unmeasurable characteristics of a transcendent, yet intimately personal, God.


We experience His effects, take comfort in His Word, and cling to the hope of eternal communion enabled by Christ.


Pray for our human adversaries that they may, like many others, have the scales fall away from their eyes and join us in the glorious hope revealed to us.


Soli Deo Gloria!